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July 27, 2020
Hometown Heritage – Dutch Gold Honey
When it comes to great signature foods, Lancaster County has plenty of delicious goodness to go around. Many of us grew up with, or discovered, food favorites that have informed our childhood and will draw us back in search of the tastes that we’ve come to crave. Welcome to your Hometown Heritage.
The cultural significance and symbolism of this “liquid gold” spans across centuries and hemispheres, from the beekeeping laws of Hellenistic Athens to the honey-filled clay vessels discovered in Egyptian tombs. Today, however, the single most universally recognizable totem of honey is far more simple: the squeezable honey bear bottle. What many don’t know is that this classic packaging design came right from the dinner table of the Gambers, Lancaster locals and one of the county’s most successful entrepreneurial families, in 1957.
Aptly named “Dutch Gold Honey,” Ralph Gamber’s family honey business began in 1946 when a doctor ordered him to find a relaxing “hobby” in response to his heart issues. That’s when, much to the chagrin of his wife Luella, Ralph ventured off to purchase 3 colonies of bees at a local farm sale. But due to the inherent entrepreneurial spirit of the Gambers, beekeeping wouldn’t remain a “hobby” for long; before they knew it, the operation had outgrown their home and expanded into its own separate honey house.
Lancaster County gave us our start, so giving back to the community is really important.”
Nancy Gamber, Ralph’s daughter and now President and Chief Executive Officer of Dutch Gold Honey, remembers her father as a natural when it came to matters of business. “He had a vision for the future,” she recalls. “My parents worked very hard to make the whole company work…that’s why they relied on their family.”
And even as the company expanded and shifted into honey packaging, the Gambers held those family and community values close. To this day, Dutch Gold Honey maintains an open door policy for its 100 employees. Additionally, the company has donated $2 million dollars to their community initiative, the Gamber Foundation, which supports charitable organizations across Lancaster. “Lancaster County gave us our start, so giving back to the community is really important,” Nancy explains.
But perhaps the most remarkable feat of Dutch Gold Honey was their unwavering commitment to the quality of their product back when a wave of imported, adulterated honey overtook grocery stores. When this crisis caused a noticeable decrease in sales, the company refused to stoop to the level of their competitors—instead, they teamed up with others in the Honey Industry to create the True Source Certification, an effort that advocates for the traceability of honey products, all the way back to beekeepers. It’s more than apparent that Dutch Gold Honey still takes to heart Ralph Gamber’s famous promise: “We only pack the best, let the others pack the rest!”
When Nancy became of working age, she was given the vital task of hand painting the eyes and noses of those iconic, squeezable plastic honey bears. At the time, the family business didn’t feel like anything special. But as the years passed, she realized the significance of continuing the Dutch Gold Honey legacy, it’s importance to the Lancaster community and the honey industry at large. “I felt as if this was my path,” Nancy reveals.
Dutch Gold Honey’s products can be found on the shelves of grocery stores across the country. But those interested in more rare varietals (or ordering in bulk) can also place orders on their website, dutchgoldhoney.com. And, yes: even online, you can still purchase those adorable honey bears.